Sunday, June 21, 2020

City Council, June 22nd - Police Reform

The first round of reform was not enough
Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Saturday
In addition to the final budget approval, which at least theoretically could be adjusted, Councilors are bringing several reform-minded motions to Council on Monday:
Changes and Success in Camden, NJ - June 15th

Over-militarized policing is a problem
June 15th

Another barrier to reform - June 13th
Most of these, however, are preliminary to any actual policy changes. So it is interesting that they are not directly talking about a pause in the growth of hiring or reducing or reallocating any budgets or making other institutional adjustments. Several of the comments submitted to Council call for stronger action than a new study or work session. The move to a new Police Station and process for a new Chief also makes this moment, right now, a good time to initiate change. At the same time, since here in Salem we have not previously had a widespread debate at Council on policing, there is not a package of reforms that has already been on the table, as has been the case elsewhere, and there may indeed be necessary preparatory work.

via FB
As Safe Routes to Schools has broadened the scope of their advocacy away from a focus on walking and biking itself, and expanded to more social justice concerns, they are taking a strong position on changes to the School Resource Officer program and the ways more generally policing is conducted in the schools. Recently they announced that they were eliminating "Enforcement" as one of their "Six E's" and adding "Engagement":
For more than 15 years, Safe Routes to School programs have used the five E’s (Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Evaluation, and Engineering) as their organizing framework. In recent years, we added a sixth E, Equity, to bring the focus towards creating healthy, thriving communities for people of all ages, races, ethnicities, incomes, and abilities. Effective immediately, we are dropping Enforcement as one of the 6 E’s of Safe Routes to School.
This is a developing change in paradigm, and it seems likely to be refined. As problematic as speeding is, I don't see how you wholly eliminate Enforcement. But the racialized impacts of the traffic stop certainly have to be eliminated. Automated photo speed enforcement has seemed like a good race-neutral tool. But this is clearly a transitional moment, and solutions are far from settled. It is easy to see things are wrong in our current approach to public safety, but solutions do not necessarily seem obvious or simple.

Other Items

There is an appeal on a property acquisition out of System Development Charges. The City's defense is that it is a proper purchase made from a 5% discretionary contingency in the list of SDC eligible projects. As a technical matter, that seems reasonable, and it likely meets the letter of the law. But as a matter of values and policy, there are questions about the City overpaying and about whether it is linked to a disputed alignment for Marine Drive. Hinessight has a longer note about it. This is one of the matters that seemed likely to get buried in the depth of the meeting agenda.

Part of SEDCOR's Enterprise Zone Press
Another matter that should get more attention but is likely instead to be buried and taken as-is, is the once a decade renewal of the Enterprise Zone tax abatement program. SEDCOR supports it, but of course the businesses do. The question is whether the wider citizenry of Salem get a proportionate benefit from the depletions of the property tax base. How necessary is it? What amount of the businesses would go ahead with their activity even without the give-away? It's just an article of faith that the program is successful and worthwhile. It, and the whole business and development subsidy program, should instead be closely audited so that Council and the citizens know for a fact the subsidies are worthwhile, or that one or more need to be modified or discontinued. It really seems we are missing out on assessment and feedback loops.

Downtown Parking is another area ripe for a closer look. The annual renewal of the Downtown Park Tax is on the agenda. Some have argued that because of the Pandemic, in order to support business downtown all parking should be free. That may be, but the Pandemic's disruption could also be an opportunity to right-price parking. Because demand is low, the current right-price is in fact free. But now could be the time to put in variable pricing so that as demand rises, gradually we price parking as appropriate. The disruption is a good time for elements of planned change. At least the City is using the moment to look at opening streets to more downtown dining and shopping and reallocating space that way.

The City keeps including TIGER/BUILD grant funding
but the City's application has been rejected multiple times
(comments and highlighting added)
The final proposed Capital Improvement Plan for 2021-2025 doesn't have any big surprises. It is interesting, however, how elastic is the notion of "likely" on funding sources. With the McGilchrist corridor the City keeps including funding from a BUILD/TIGER grant from the Feds, but the application does not seem very competitive at this moment, several times applications have been rejected in the past decade, and it's hard to see how "likely" it actually is. A BUILD grant is speculative, not likely. Yet they keep including it in the CIP.

A pot of Urban Renewal money for property acquisition on Pine Street is new and that will be something to watch.

This was new
Though it is in the CIP, the Union Street Bikeway is also a separate agenda item. There is no change, no new information on it, but funds have to be formally transferred.
The City has committed $2,334,000 of federal highway grant funds to the project and the Agency has committed $1,500,000. In order to transfer Agency funds to the City, it is necessary for the Council to authorize the attached grant agreement.
The $1.5M at Council is part of $1.87M previously funded
I believe the money in this action item concerns the "amount funded in prior years" in the latest CIP, and is not even directly implicated in this new CIP.

Wittenburg-King Plant, Canning Age, January 1920
Now Truitt Bros., it looks much the same
Bullets for the rest:

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